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Fast Girls: Teenage Tribes and the Myth of the Slutby Emily White
Synopses & Reviews
The American high school is a tribal place — and often a cruel one. Divisions are drawn between jocks, cheerleaders, nerds, drama geeks, goths. But there is one person who exists outside of the cliques, who is never welcomed into any group. She is the girl with the reputation, the one boys are drawn to and other girls avoid. Many people remember her from their high school days — some can even recall her name — but few have thought about her significance: Why is she such a universal figure? Has she done the things of which she is accused? How is her reputation created in the first place? She is the high school slut, and Fast Girls explores her experience and her legacy.
In this brilliant fusion of reportage, criticism, and memoir, Emily White provides an in-depth look at the girls who were labeled high school sluts and the culture that perpetuates the myth. White began this project by placing a query in a syndicated newspaper column — "Are you now or were you the slut of your high school class?" — and by setting up an 800 number in her home to talk with girls who were branded as sluts. Through interviews, e-mails, and other exchanges with more than one hundred girls and women across the country, White identifies the common threads in their life stories and deconstructs the archetype of the slut, revealing how it reflects our society's attitudes toward sex, women, and the outsider. She seamlessly combines her own research with cogent analysis of feminist thought and a critical examination of popular films and music, resulting in a book that not only explains the preconditions of the slut — what qualities lead a girl to be targeted, which communities most often target her — but also tells us why our culture needs her.
With remarkable empathy and understanding for her subjects, Emily White opens a window on the tribal world of teenagers and the lasting effects of adolescent ostracism. Incisive and affecting, provocative and haunting, Fast Girls marks the debut of an important new voice for feminism.
"Emily White does for the American suburban high school what other feminists have done for the Salem Witch Trials. In deconstructing the universal mythologies that surround 'the Slut' she has exposed some rather 'inconvenient facts.' With harrowing detail and refreshing insight, White shows how some forms of 'sisterhood' can be powerfully destructive forces against women. This book will open minds and repair damaged hearts." Donna Gaines, Ph.D., author of Teenage Wasteland
"Calling a young woman a slut may be a way of shutting her down, but Emily White opens up the term until it turns into a magical hall of mirrors, revealing all the ways in which fear of female power still shapes our culture. Ranking with the groundbreaking work of the Second Wave, much fiercer than most of what passes for feminist writing now, Fast Girls takes the discussion of the politics of sex to the next level." Ann Powers, author of Weird Like Us
About the Author
Emily White, a freelance writer, was the editor of The Stranger, an alternative weekly newspaper in Seattle. She has also been a contributing editor to the Web site OpenLetters.net and a Stegner fellow in the fiction program at Stanford University. Her work has appeared in Spin Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, The Village Voice, Nest, and L.A. Weekly. White lives in Seattle, Washington, where she is the writer in residence at Richard Hugo House.
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